Exploration & Remote Instrumentation by Students

ERIS (Exploration and Remote Instrumentation by Students) is a student designed and built cabled observatory that serves as an underwater learning facility at the University of Washington (UW). Students work with ERIS through a series of courses offered by the UW Ocean Technology Program, through the School of Oceanography. ERIS, with its educational mission, enables undergraduate students to design, build, operate, and maintain a cabled underwater observatory that emulates the NSF Ocean Observatories Initiatives (OOI) Regional Cabled Array, by providing for a continuous data-stream for analysis, interpretation, and communication by students. From inspiration through implementation, this program is focused on the creation and operation of an underwater science sensor network that is physically located off the dock of the School of Oceanography at UW Seattle Campus.

Not only does ERIS allow students to gain valuable experience in working with ocean technology, but ERIS seeks to answer critical scientific questions about human’s interaction with the near-shore environment. ERIS is the first observatory of its kind designed to monitor the underwater environment in a metropolitan setting. While cabled observatories are gaining significant traction in the scientific community, all that have been implemented or planned thus far are located offshore. These observatories, such as the Cabled Array, are focused on understanding processes operating on the seafloor and in coastal and deep-water environments. The ERIS observatory is unique in that its objective is to answer questions about how anthropogenic processes influence natural marine processes in local environments.

Key Science Questions:

-  How do anthropogenic processes mediate natural processes in the marine environment?
-  What are the temporal and spatial scales over which anthropogenic activities occur?
-  How does the temperature, light, chemistry, and velocity of the marine environment change temporally and spatially?
-  What unique ecological systems are present?
-  What is the composition, configuration, and concentration of organisms in the different ecological systems?
-  How are these systems impacted by both natural and anthropogenic events?

ERIS will also encourage students to explore a range of technical considerations.

Technology Questions:

-  What sensor(s) design is required?
-  What sample rate and duty cycle is needed?
-  What measurement accuracy is need and what can be achieved?
-  How should remote observations be made?
-  How can sensors be deployed and serviced?
-  What are the power requirements?
-  How will data be delivered, stored, and accessed?
-  How will data be analyzed, interpreted, visualized, and communicated?

As the observatory is being implemented, students focus on maintaining the components, as well as collecting, managing, and analyzing the continuous streams of data the observatory will produce. Integral to the ERIS program is the ability to distribute the collected data so that it may be interpreted by interested parties at the UW and worldwide.

Future students will contribute to ERIS by continually expanding the range of sensors and data collected, and the observatory’s geographic range. This may include possibly installing future stations throughout Portage Bay, Lake Washington, and/or Lake Union. By increasing the range of data types and the spatial distribution of the data, a more complete picture of anthropogenic impacts on the marine environment can be studied.